Harding Slips Past Suns 75-73 in GAC Final

Sydnie Jones’ offensive rebound and put-back basket with 3.6 seconds remaining gave nationally 13th-ranked Harding University a 75-73 victory over Arkansas Tech University in the championship game of the Great American Conference Tournament on Sunday at Bruin Fieldhouse in Bartlesville, Okla.

The Golden Suns (22-7) had an opportunity to tie the score, but their layup at the buzzer missed as Harding (27-3) joined Arkansas Tech as the only programs in GAC history to sweep the regular season and postseason women’s basketball titles in the same year.

“It was a great basketball game,” said Dave Wilbers, Arkansas Tech head coach. “We took the lead at the end, and we just fought and fought. We had one bad possession late in the game, and then they tried a shot and the rebound happened to land right in (Jones’) hands. We got a layup to try to tie it at the end, and as a coach, that’s really all I can ask for.”

Jones finished with a career-high 30 points. She was 11-of-14 from the field.

Kelsey McClure had a career-high 26 points for Arkansas Tech. She connected on 10-of-15 field goal tries.

There were nine ties and six lead changes on Saturday. The Golden Suns built a 73-69 lead on Cheyenne North’s basket with 1:26 left, but those proved to be Tech’s final points of the day.

A’ndrea Haney made a layup with 1:18 left and Caroline Hogue hit a pair of free throws with 41.1 seconds left to tie the score and set up Jones’ heroics in the closing seconds.

North finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots for the Suns. Anissa Pounds added 11 points.

Tech shot 31-of-63 (49 percent) from the field. Before Sunday, Harding had held 19 consecutive opponents below 40 percent field goal shooting.

The Lady Bisons made 20-of-23 free throws (87 percent), compared to 9-of-10 (90 percent) for the Golden Suns.

With the win, Harding earned an automatic bid to the 2017 NCAA Division II Tournament. Arkansas Tech will learn at 9 p.m. Sunday night if it will receive an at-large bid to the event.

Watch the selection show live.